Back in August 2010, the number one photo app at the time was Camera+, which was suddenly deleted from the App Store for 4 months because of VolumeSnap, an undocumented Easter Egg allowing users to use the volume buttons on their iPhones as a shutter release.

The feature is back in several minor apps — mostly coming from Russia and China. The latest is Quick Snap – Camera Plus by a developer called Good Code, which was released on December 15, 2009 shortly before the App Store went on its holiday break. They are pretty blatant about the feature, describing VolumeSnap in the first line of the App Store description and they even use photos of the Easter Egg. As of today, December 27, 2009, Quick Snap is still available in the App Store and is an app that I do not recommend.

The feature is called VolumeSnap. The term was coined by another developer and embraced by the iPhoneography community. It allows you to use your iPhone’s volume buttons to release the shutter which behaves more like a real camera. However, changing the use of the iPhone’s hardware violates Apple’s terms of the SDK, so Apple usually rejects or removes apps with this feature. It is unknown at this time how Quick Snap with VolumeSnap so prominently featured was approved for sale.

What frustrates me about this is that Apple set a high-profile example with version 1.2.1 of Camera+ in that if you include the feature, your app is banned from the App Store. Several camera apps with the VolumeSnap feature have been introduced or updated since Camera+ was pulled. The App Store submission process was supposed to have been changed to prevent developers from slipping the feature past reviewers by changing the app’s description after it had been approved and gone on sale. However, it doesn’t look like this was fully implemented, or these apps were approved with full knowledge of the feature.

TakePhotoMe is another app that appears to allow you to use “side buttons” to snap a photo. It’s been available in the App Store since February of 2010.

In any case, it’s unfair and frustrating to punish one developer (of a top-rated, high quality app) while letting these other apps slide through the approval process. I’m not a fan of VolumeSnap. As it’s typically implemented, not only does it release the shutter, but it jacks with the phone’s volume at the same time. If you have an annoying ringtone (like I do — imagine the classic Nokia brick ringtone at “10”), this is frustrating and inconvenient. But it’s a highly requested feature and one of the most popular features of Camera+ when it was available in version 1.2.1

Apple either needs to enforce its rules equally for all developers or change the terms of the Software Development Kit to allow devs to implement this feature.

As for both of these apps (and the few others that are in the store), I don’t recommend downloading them. They could get pulled by Apple at any time, meaning future iOS updates could break them with no way for the developers to update. There’s no mention of the photo quality for any of the apps. Unlocking the Easter Egg in Quick Snap looks time-consuming and clunky. It appears to take several seconds to prepare VolumeSnap and by the time the feature is ready, your shot is probably gone. Also, the apps look like barebones camera apps with few or none of the other cool features that makes Camera+ such a great app. Except, of course, VolumeSnap.

Want to see how Quick Snap works? A user-created video has been posted to YouTube: